Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The conference begins! Haggis, Gaelic and poster minute madness

I’m going to start with the end of day two of the conference and work backwards from there. At the end of the day, there was a drinks reception and poster session held at the Playfair Library, University of Edinburgh. The library is in the old part of the University. It’s an incredible building that was built in the 1820s and has an ornately decorated high vaulted ceiling and rows of books silently looked upon by busts of University professors long past. You can take a look at it here. It was wonderful venue to view the 60+ posters presented at this conference. And yes, they served Haggis – as balls on a stick that you dipped into a sauce.

In the morning I participated in a workshop on the Confederation of Open Access Repositories . COAR was created in October 2009 by partners of the driver project. It’s a not-for-profit organisation with 90 members, none of which are in Australia. The purpose is to facilitate greater visibility of open access repositories. There are three working groups to do this, each with a different focus: content, interoperability and training/support. The workshop was about the interoperability roadmap. There was certainly alot of useful references in the document the interoperability working group has produced but it’s unclear to me how COAR members will actually use the information. Perhaps the training group is of greatest value to those of us in Australia because the next round of it is free, online and you don’t have to be a member of COAR to enrol in it. There is a list of COAR’s upcoming training here.  It costs to be a member, some 2, 500 euro’s – so perhaps that’s another reason why there are no Australian members yet.

After lunch the conference officially opened with an opening plenary from Cameron Neylon (PLoS). The PLoS website has an article on the Finch Report, which is worth a read, as it’s such a hot topic in the UK. Cameron highlighted the qualitative leap forward made possible by researcher collaboration using internet tools.  Complex problems which even the primary expert in a field thinks is too difficult to solve may be solved through collaboration via the internet even with its most rudimentary tools. Following his talk, we had an hour of posters: minute madness. This is where poster presenters have one minute to pitch to the audience why they should visit their poster at the drinks reception later in the evening. If you don’t finish by the end of the minute, the chair blows a whistle in your ear. It was a real hoot and you get a flavour of the huge variety of repository initiatives around the world in a short space of time. The session reflect this is truly is an international conference reflected in the huge representation of countries as delegates and poster presenters (including our very own Paula Callan). A few poster highlights (there were 68 posters!): can linkedin enhance access to open repositories? ; History data management plan at the University of Hull; OpenAire in Europe linking articles with data; Creating, attracting and depositing non-traditional content.
After this I went to the session on research data management and infrastructure. The University of Exeter is an interesting case as they have three repositories and are looking to merge all three using DSpace, Oracle and SWORD2. The talk was mostly about their postgrad initiatives, however I will try and find the speaker over the course of the conference and find out more on their repository project. I enjoyed the talk by Leslie Johnson from the Library of Congress. It was an honest and revealing look at how LoC are now interacting with faculty and researchers that have inspired new ways of delivering data including the transition to a self serve model that is very different from the old model where researchers would need to come physically into the library and interact with a librarian. She referred to the Digging into Data Challenge.

The day ended with the drinks and poster reception and then I had dinner out with Jackie Wickham and others from the RSP and the University of Nottingham. I’ve crossed a few more things off my ‘to do’ list: hear someone speak Gaelic (at the drinks reception) and listen to ‘Scotland the Brave’ played on the bagpipes (actually this is rather unavoidable if you are anywhere near the Royal Mile which is a road over a 1000 years old that leads from the Castle to Holyrood Palace). As an aside, I discovered the word ‘Kirk’ does not refer to ‘James T’ (as in Star Trek – for those less geeky) but it’s the Scottish word for ‘church’. And yes, it’s still raining.


  1. These are great links! Can't wait to delve into them :-)

  2. Very nice post. I not only discovered your blog, I feel like I 'got to know you'. Good luck in the challenge.